At an age where children run around the ground to catch their friends, nine-year-old Pooja Bishnoi is busy winning gold medals and setting world records . Hailing from a small village in Jodhpur, she has a sense of discipline and determination that even some adults lack.
Young Pooja recently scripted a world-record by covering a distance of 3 km in just 12.50 minutes in the under-10 age category. Incidentally, she is also Asia’s first-ever girl to have six-pack abs at a young age of nine.
Coached by her maternal uncle Sarwan Budiya, Pooja is now preparing to compete at the Youth Olympics, scheduled to be held in 2024, and hopes to clinch a gold for the country.
On the right track
Sarwan, an athlete himself, is associated with the Sports Authority of India, Jodhpur, had to give up his sport after a severe hamstring injury.
A constant support system to Pooja through her journey as a sprinter, it was Sarwan who realised her potential when she was just three and was trying to outrun older boys in a race.
He began training her soon after and a month later, she raced those boys again and was able to defeat them.
Since then, there has been no looking back. Pooja trains and when she was just five, this led her to develop well-defined abs, a rarity among kids.
She wakes up at 3 am every day to train until 7 or 8 am. Then, she attends school, takes rest in the afternoon, and trains again in the evening before going to bed before 10 pm. Not just this, she also has a strict diet to follow involving dry fruits, fruits, and proteins, and has no social life.
In 2017, at the age of six, Pooja covered 10 km in 48 minutes for a Jodhpur marathon and also became popular for her impressive abs.
Not a cakewalk
But, things were not always as smooth as it sounds. Pooja’s parents, who are both farmers, could not support the high cost of her diet and training.
And so, Sarwan, who works at a friend’s shop as a business manager, stepped in to take care of her dietary needs and training.
All that changed in January 2019, when the Virat Kohli Foundation extended support to her after looking at her training videos and her initial achievements.
Interestingly, in the same year, she made the world record at the Sportygo tournament in Delhi. Pooja also won gold medals in the 3,000 meters, 1,500 meters, and 800 metres categories.
Today, she today lives with her uncle and brother in Jodhpur. She attends school in the city and stays at an apartment provided by the Virat Kohli Foundation.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)